Two non-Champagne bubblies
Not technically Champagnes because they're not made in the region of France that bears that proud name, these two fine bubblies offer a reasonable alternative to the real thing for a fraction of the price.

Salinger Seppelt 1992 Salinger South Eastern Australia Champagne ($12.99)
Pale gold, with an intense, almost turbulent fountain of pinpoint bubbles in the glass. Tasty aroma, fresh apple fruit, toast and a whiff of milk chocolate, excellent. Creamy, crisp and tart on the palate, clean and fresh; a faithful imitation of the Champagne style. (Although it's made from the traditional varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and using the methode champenoise process, it's somewhat surprising to see a quality sparkling-wine maker abusing the term "Champagne" for a non-French sparkler, a practice that's largely dying out.) U.S. importer: Astra Wine Imports, Roswell, Ga. (Oct. 27, 1999)

Heritage Gratien & Meyer non-vintage Heritage Brut Blanc de Blancs ($12.99)
From France but not from Champagne, this tasty item is made in the Loire from Pineau de la Loire (the local name for Chenin Blanc) and Chardonnay grapes by the "methode traditionnelle," akin to Champagne production. Light brass in color with a steady stream of rather fat bubbles, its aromas are pleasantly earthy, almost cheesey in the nose and full and ripe on the palate, with earthy and good white-fruit flavors. Definitely not Champagne-like, it's almost like a good Vouvray that just happens to have bubbles. U.S. importer: New Castle Imports Inc., Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Oct. 27, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Both wines quaffed nicely with a flavorful fish dinner, bluefish baked on a bed of finocchio with a dash of pastis, but the earthy Loire made more of a synergistic match.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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